WATCH: GAA President admits Championship unlikely with social distancing

Appearing on the Sunday Game last night, GAA president John Horan outlined how there is little possibility of an All-Ireland Championship being played this year as long as social distancing is being enforced.

 “I can’t see it happening to be quite honest. If social distancing is a priority to deal with this pandemic, I don’t know how we can play a contact sport. That is what Gaelic games is. It is a contact sport.

“When you look at the level of contact in sports, scrums in rugby are probably at a different level. But I don’t think to say our games are non-contact is correct, no.”

The key thing is contact sport. Our concern has to be the players on the pitch and their families and work colleagues. They are all amateurs and it is a hobby to them. I know they take it very seriously at inter-county level and they have a very serious approach to it.

“But we can’t risk anybody’s health. When this is all over and we are all back to normal life, I would hate to think as an organisation that we would have made a decision that cost any family a member of their family.

“We are holding those July and October dates out but if we can’t realise those dates, then we will have to make more serious decisions and push it out more. If we push it out more it may mean we’ll have to call off club or inter-county championships and maybe then we’ll have to call off both.

“I think this year’s Championship would have to start in 2020 and go into the first two months of 2021.

“After that, if we’re back in action, we would have to move on and get on with the 2021 competitions. At this stage I would be inclined to say we will struggle to finish the league.”

6 May 2020; A general view of Croke Park stadium following a Covid-19 update by the GAA. GAA facilities are to remain closed as part of efforts to prevent gatherings which breach the current restrictions from the Department of Health and the Irish Government. Clubs and counties are to continue to adhere to the restrictions and to refrain from organising on-field activity. These measures are expected to remain in place until July 20. The GAA still hopes to be able to play county and club competitions in 2020, subject to public health guidance and have also confirmed that no inter-county games are expected to take place before October 2020. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Horan also outlined why the organisation made the decision to keep GAA grounds and activities restricted until 20 July.

“There was a concept in it that people could gather together in groups of four. We felt that just couldn’t be marshaled within clubs and that is why we continue to keep our premises closed.

“Our clubs are led by a lot of good quality volunteer people and to put the onus on the volunteers within our organisation to make the decision to police and organise training within our facilities, we just felt that would be too much.

“You would have a group of four here, and there, and all of a sudden you would have a full squad gathering. Then the next thing after a period of that training, they’d probably push on and you could have a training behind closed doors.

“I’ve had contacts since from one or two club chairman who have said thanks for taking it out of our hands, because they were concerned how we were going to police it in our own grounds.

“We got a lot of calls that weekend from people looking for clarification of what the GAA’s position was.

“We took our time, consulted with our county chairmen and management committee before we came out with our press release on Wednesday. I think we have taken the right decision.

“I’m not going to pass that responsibility onto the club volunteer who does a great job for us to make the decisions. Professional sport is in a different league because they don’t go back into work and can be cocooned in a family situation. We can’t do that and won’t. I think people’s health and safety is key to it all.”

15 March 2020; A general view of Croke Park Stadium. Following directives from the Irish Government and the Department of Health the majority of the country’s sporting associations have suspended all activity until March 29, in an effort to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Horan also spoke about the huge financial implications the virus will have on the organisation.

“It is a serious situation for us. It’s one of the things that is quite worrying for us. We operate on a financial profile, such as the €74m last year, that all gets recirculated. We don’t engage in building up massive reserves.

“So our whole operation and budgeting this year would have been on the basis of revenue streams coming in from games and sponsors.

“Looking at the figures at the moment, it looks like we will end up with a loss of €25 million to €30 million, centrally in Croke Park. That is the central GAA and the actual stadium.

“Throughout the organisation taking into account county boards and clubs, the loss for the year for us is probably in the region of €50m.

“Unfortunately [for those who have applied for grants], they have possibly just hit a bad time for their application. The money is not there. As soon as the money comes back on stream, we’ll only be too delighted to be getting back our supporting our clubs with the money.

“A €50m loss throughout a whole organisation that doesn’t keep big reserves, we just won’t have the funding to hand it out.

“That is why I’m conscious that everyone should cut costs. We have done that in Croke Park with our budgets to trim it back as best we can. We want to be as robust as we can when we get the opportunity to come back.”

Listen to Horan’s full discussion with Des Cahill here.

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